How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

Damian Lillard is having a tough go at it, and it's not about to get any easier.

Lillard reportedly has a separated rib, and he and the Portland Trail Blazers now face an extremely steep uphill battle to dig themselves out of a three-games-to-none series deficit against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Game 4 is Monday night, and if Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum don't find a way to be more efficient scorers -- they've combined for 35.2 percent shooting from the field thus far -- it could mean the end of Portland's season.

Of course, Lillard and McCollum aren't shooting in a vacuum. They're going up against a talented Warriros defense that's employing a strategy designed to make them uncomfortable.

"Steve Kerr’s defensive strategy coming in, I think was great," Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said after the Warriors' Game 3 win Saturday. "Looks to me [the Warriors] all bought into it, and they love it. They’re really thriving in it. They’re getting the ball out of CJ McCollum’s hands, Damian Lillard’s hands, and that’s frustrating them. They want the ball back."

Mullin knows Lillard and McCollum are more than capable of catching fire at any moment. But unfortunately for Portland, that's not exclusive to the Blazers in this series.

“They’re great players, they really, really are," Mullin said of Lillard and McCollum. "They can really score the ball. They’re two of the best guards -- probably the second-best backcourt in the league.

“There’s a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 2.”

The No. 1 backcourt being referred to, of course, is that of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers are having a far more proficient series, compared to the Blazers' backcourt, and Mullin believes that's partly because they're more difficult to strategize against.

"What Steve Kerr’s done, he knows what [Lillard and McCollum] don’t like to do, and he’s making them do it," Mullin explained. "So when they give the ball up, that’s wearing on them, I think, mentally and physically. When you see Steph give it up, he almost gets more energized, because he loves running off screens. Same with Klay. 

"I think it’s had a negative effect on [Lillard and McCollum's] energy," Mullin continued, "because that’s not what they want to do. They’re not as comfortable without the ball. I think it’s had an effect across the board, so I give credit to the strategy that Steve has come into the series with, and then a lot of credit to the players for executing it."

[RELATED: Mullin compares Draymond's Game 3 to Magic, other greats]

Given that the Warriors have prevailed in each of the first three games of the series while employing that same strategy, it's unlikely they'll go away from what has proven to be effective when they take the floor for Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night. If Golden State can continue making Lillard and McCollum uncomfortable, Portland's season could be on borrowed time.

Based on what he's seen, Mullin isn't expecting a potential Game 5 to be necessary.

"Get the brooms out," he said.

Andre Iguodala clarifies comments on injury, Kevin Durant's Achilles

Andre Iguodala clarifies comments on injury, Kevin Durant's Achilles

So here's what happened.

On Tuesday morning, Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was a guest on The Breakfast Club radio show out of New York.

Charlamage tha God asked Iguodala if the Warriors should take any blame for Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Raptors.

"So that's a really good question. I don't think his injury was the reason for the other injury," the 2015 NBA Finals MVP said. "The way the body is set up, the calf should have went out first before the Achilles.

"So that was like an act of God. The Achilles was just gonna go out no matter if he was injured before that or not."

So you don't think the Warriors have any responsibility for maybe pushing KD out there too soon?

"That's the tough part, too. We have a really good training staff. Our traning staff is one of the best in the world," Iguodala said. "And I feel like they got him back. The tough thing is -- when you're an athlete and you're hurt, everybody's looking at you sideways.

"Last year, it happened to me. I missed the last three games of the Houston series. We barely get out of that series and now they're looking at me like, 'When you coming back?' And I had a fractured leg but it's being put out there like it's a bone bruise. I'm like, 'No, it's fractured.'

"So I'm fighting with the team, I'm fighting with people, I'm fighting with the media. And then my teammates ask me every day, 'How you feeling? How you feeling?' So with K, he's getting it from everywhere, too. Not just from the team, but from family or people close to him.

"And what do they always say in sports? 'Oh, he was a tough guy. He played through injury.' You're validated as an athlete if you win a championship for how tough you were. If you sit out, it's like, 'Oh, he's not tough.'"

Unsurprisingly, people started criticizing the Warriors' training staff for misdiagnosing Iguodala's injury last year. But that is not what happened.

On Wednesday, Iguodala set the record straight in a conversation with Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group.

“I don’t think it was internal pressure at all,” Iguodala said of how the Warriors’ training staff handled his left leg injury. “It had nothing to do with me, When you read an MRI, it can be read so many different ways. Even if I thought what it was or they thought what it was, we were all clear and on the same page.

My leg was stable. In that area, even if you have a bruise or a fracture, it is very similar. People don’t realize that. We were both on the same page that it was stable and that part of the body was fine to go play. Regardless of what I thought it was or what they thought it was or what anybody thought it was, we were all on the same page that I was good to go. It was a stable leg.”

Durant sustained a significant right calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors' second-round series against the Rockets. He missed the Dubs' next nine games before returning for Game 5 in Toronto with the Warriors down three games to one.

“Athletes sacrifice themselves to win a championship," Iguodala told BANG. "Do you know how many guys would’ve killed themselves to win a championship? That’s the point I’m making and what I’m saying in the book – the pressures of an athlete go much deeper than what people realize.

"They don’t see us as humans, sometimes. They’re missing that human element.”

As Durant wrote on Instagram following his surgery on June 12:

Basketball is my biggest love and I wanted to be out there that night because that’s what I do. I wanted to help my teammates on our quest for the three peat.

Its just the way things go in this game and I'm proud that I gave it all I physically could, and I'm proud my brothers got the W.

The main reason Iguodala's comments on The Breakfast Club gained steam was because Durant was involved.

Iguodala already discussed his 2018 "spider fracture" with BANG back in late September.

"The injury kind of bothered me because there was a lot going on behind closed doors that was bothering me. I hadn’t missed a playoff game my entire career. It isn’t about waiting around. I know what it was. A lot of people knew what it was. But I just went along with it.

Whatever you say it is, a bruise or whatever, I should be back day to day. But I know it wasn’t day to day. All right, cool. Players can fold under that type of scrutiny ... if I can’t talk to ya’ll, I’m isolated. That can do some damage to players. I’ve seen it firsthand. Guys fold and don’t attempt to come back. But I tried to keep the right mindset. I had the ‘whatever’ mentality where I don’t really care."

[RELATEDDurant, Warriors haven't had breakdown in trust, Woj says]

Lastly, as BANG noted on Wednesday: "The Warriors have an internal policy that requires approval from the player and his representatives to approve on the wording of their respective injury."

So while it clearly was frustrating for Iguodala to have people question why he wasn't playing through a contusion/bone bruise, he was onboard with the public messaging.

OK. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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NBA free agency 2019: Ten shooters who can help Warriors next season

NBA free agency 2019: Ten shooters who can help Warriors next season

Immediately after the Warriors dispatched the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Stephen Curry called Toronto's strategy 'janky" after the Raptors used a box-and-one to corral the star.

Now, weeks later - with free agents Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant out for the majority of next season if not gone forever- the Warriors will need to fill out roster space with shooters to combat the 'janky' strategy. However, with Golden State deep in the luxury tax, the team only will be able to sign players via the midlevel exception and minimum contracts.

Click here for 10 shooters who could help the Warriors next season